Is omni-channel essential for delivering a great cx?

How many times have you read customer experience experts talking about how it is essential to deliver an amazing or a memorable customer experience? How many times have you read that you need to embrace omni-channel service if you want to encourage better customer loyalty?

If, like me, you follow what customer service analysts and experts are saying then you will have heard these calls to action many times. However, I recently saw some research published by SAP that explores the confusion around omni-channel perfection and customer experience.

The study surveyed 2,000 customers in the USA, Canada, and Europe. What really stood out for me is that customers prioritise quite basic needs and although we often talk about the need for a highly detailed omni-channel environment, this is less important than just getting the basics right. For example, the top three attributes of a great customer experience are considered to be as follows:

  1. Fast response time - 52%
  2. Knowledgeable staff ready to help me - 47%
  3. Rewards for my loyalty - 42%

Now look at the attributes that are not so important:

  1. An always-on automated service - 8%
  2. Branded social communities for engaging with other customers - 9%
  3. Multiple touchpoints that add value - 10%
  4. Recognising my history at every touchpoint - 12%

In some ways, this runs counter to the conventional wisdom. Customers do want their history to be recognised even if this research suggests that it is not very important. But think how annoying it is when you get handed from one advisor to another and you need to repeat all your details. Or when you call and nobody knows anything about the emails you have sent.

I think that this research devalues just how important an omni-channel approach really is, however I would agree with the more basic point - if you don’t deliver on the basics then that will annoy the customer much faster than any omni-channel failings. If you can’t help quickly with knowledgeable people and reward regular customers then you really do have more problems than delivering a great omni-channel solution, so that’s how I would read these results. Get the basics right because customers always expect more. Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment here, or get in touch on LinkedIn.


Can retail banks compete with fintech on cx?

I don’t remember that Bill Gates once called retail banks ‘dinosaurs’, but I was reminded of his statement by a recent article in the Harvard Business Review. The article explored the glacial progress in improving the customer experience for most bank customers and laments that only 7% of credit products can be processed end to end without human intervention.

I’m sure that 7% figure varies from one market to another, but the underlying truth is that retail banks have found it very difficult to change their business model. They have large legacy technology systems that underpin their business processes and services provided online need to be mirrored across a physical branch network. It’s not easy to be agile when one new service may require training for thousands of employees.

But now the banking industry is changing faster than ever before. The HBR research points to financial technologies (fintech) presenting banks with an existential threat. How can they possibly compete with fintech startups that can design their service entirely around customer needs?

But a trusted brand and a large existing customer base still count for something so it’s not over yet. It’s true that the fintechs have an enormous advantage in agility, ability to design services around customer needs, and the lack of legacy systems or branches, however there are steps that the banks could take to leverage on the fintech approach. This feature on the American Marketing Association website highlights three key areas where banks can focus:

  1. Integrate apps and humans into an intimate customer experience: if banks can offer great apps, but always allow the option to reach a human at any time then the service will be seen as more helpful.
  2. Design a personalised digital customer experience: using information on the customer to create a highly personalised experience.
  3. Achieve an automated customer experience: automating as many simple and basic procedures so customers only need help with complex queries.

This advice may sound obvious, but I think that it does strike at the heart of what banks need to do to fight their more agile competitors. Banks have trust, they have experience, they have a large amount of existing customers, but they face an uncertain future because the fintechs are designing services that customers really want.

However, if they can follow these basic rules and automate anything simple, use their knowledge of your banking history to create a highly personal service, and tightly integrate the online and offline experience they have a good chance of retaining many existing customers. It will all be about the customer experience.

I do remember reading The Road Ahead by Bill Gates in 1995 and he accurately predicted Spotify and Netflix long before anyone could imagine what a streaming service would look like, so perhaps it’s worth going back to see what else he said in the nineties. He got it right for music, movies, and banks. What else did he say back then? If you have any views on my article then please do leave a comment here or get in touch directly via LinkedIn.


Customers will spend more if they receive great service

More than a decade ago, there was a consumer backlash in some industries against the offshore outsourcing of contact centres. Some customers complained that they did not want to talk with advisors far from home. I can remember a few very smart companies back then experimenting with the option to speak immediately to an offshore advisor or to wait until a local advisor could be located. The customer was given the choice.

The results I remember then were that most customers wanted immediate service and would not wait for a local advisor, so although there was a lot of noise about offshoring, when it came down to actual calls most customers just wanted a fast service. Things have moved on since those days and many brands do make a virtue of answering calls locally in some industries such as financial services. But overall, the marketplace is far more intelligent today with a blend of both local and offshore contact centres.

I was reminded of these experiments in customer choice when I read a report recently about asking customers if they would pay more for a better experience. It’s something we are used to in many industries. Airlines offer a fast check-in, lounge with a free bar, and a flat-bed on board if you are prepared to pay for business class. The alternative is a long line at security, waiting in a burger bar, and a tiny seat with no room to even use a laptop computer.

The Capgemini researchers recently attempted to quantify some of these ideas around how much customers would pay for a better experience. 81% said  they would pay more if they could get a better service and a key driver of this attitude seemed to be that most customers don’t feel they are listened to - even if they are loyal to a brand.

Capgemini also found that the digital experience is essential today. They audited more than 80 different digital experiences, such as being able to edit your personal data and personalising services via your phone and created a digital cx index (DCX). They found that there is a direct relationship between the DCX score and how much a customer is willing to spend with the brand. In fact, each single DCX point was worth an additional 0.6% in willingness to spend more with the brand.

The Capgemini data suggest that only 19% of brands are actually keeping pace with the service that customers expect today and yet their data also directly points to a willingness to spend more if the brand offers a great experience.

The message is clear, most brands are not yet meeting customer expectations and are therefore missing out on the opportunity for their customers to spend more if the service they receive meets (or exceeds) their expectations. The importance of placing CX at the heart of your business strategy could not be more clearly demonstrated.

What do you think about the Capgemini research findings? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.


Creating loyalty in bank customers

From 2013 to 2017, just five per cent of retail bank customers in the UK switched from one bank to another. Inertia and a fear of bills being missed all conspire to create a situation in which the banks don’t need to worry much about customer loyalty because very few customers ever change their bank. But is this all about to change?

2018 looks like it could be a critical year because it’s when the PSD2 European Union directive will need to be applied across Europe - and this will still affect the UK as the earliest the UK can possibly leave the EU is 2019. The Brexit process does not impact directives that become law next year.

PSD2 is the second payment services directive. In short, it places a legal requirement on all financial companies to open their data to other companies, creating a digitally-enabled banking environment.

The immediate implications might be that it will be easier to keep control of your money regardless of where it is. You might have your current account with one bank, savings in a building society, and your mortgage with another provider. With PSD2 in place, it is likely that new apps will be launched allowing easy access to all your financial institutions so you can create a simple overall financial picture - and plan for the future more effectively.

But this openness also creates more opportunities for completely new financial service providers - the entire financial system across all of Europe will be open to new providers launching services on apps that rival those the banks are offering. But, more transparency and ease of access to information on accounts also makes it easier to switch. Banks in the UK have tried to make switching easier, but with the ability for a customer to connect a new bank directly into their existing bank, the switching process could (in theory) become immediate.

Just imagine that. Hassle-free instant switching from one bank to another? Suddenly, the customer experience and how to create customer loyalty is going to be a number one priority in the banking industry. But with such an important change coming soon, have you felt a sense of urgency in retail banking yet? In this paper, read how regulation and digital technology will reshape the retail banking customer experience. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment here or get in touch directly via LinkedIn.


Webhelp Plays Crucial Role in Shaping the Future of the Contact Centre Industry in South Africa

Leading global business process outsourcing and customer experience expert, Webhelp, is putting its international experience and pedigree behind renewed efforts to transform the contact centre industry in South Africa.

Following a recent review of the future of the industry body in South Africa, BPeSA, Webhelp’s Craig Gibson, is committing his time and experience to help shape the future of the organisation and the contact centre industry in South Africa by taking a place on the BPeSA Transition Committee.

Gibson, formerly CEO of Webhelp South Africa and now chief commercial officer of Webhelp UK, South Africa and India, has a vast amount of experience in the business process outsourcing world and has long been excited by the prospects of the industry to help to revitalise the South African economy. He oversaw the establishment in South Africa of Webhelp, a French-based company set up in 2000 by two young French entreprenuers, and took it from a start up in the region to an established business with more than 4,000 employees and six international clients.

Craig Gibson,CCO Webhelp

“The contact centre industry is crucial to the future development of jobs and youth employment in South Africa, which are primary vehicles to drive economic reform in South Africa,” commented Gibson.

“Tremendous opportunities exist in this industry. As technological advances continue, so too does the number of businesses keen to appropriately source customer experiences to an expert provider, in a world-class geography, and that means more and better job opportunities for people in South Africa.

“We support a number of international clients from our sites in South Africa and they are consistently impressed with the quality of the people here. With training, development and support, Webhelp is able to create a workforce of South Africans that is equal to first rate customer advisors in any other part of the world. Coupled with excellent infrastructure and lower costs, this makes South Africa a very appealing outsourced location for many international businesses.

“With such potential for the industry in South Africa, it is crucial that we have an industry body that can ensure we take full advantage of the opportunities that exist. The team that is being assembled to transition to a new operating model is unique and will see a range of skills and experience come together to lead this. This is too important for the future of the contact centre industry in South Africa and the development of the economy not to get this right, so that is why I am keen to get involved and play my part.”

 

 

 

 


How secure is your work at home contact centre strategy?

My colleague Helen mentioned in her last article the benefits of deploying a work at home strategy for contact centres and customer service. In particular, by allowing advisors to work from home, the brand can access a much deeper pool of talent - the advisors no longer need to live within commuting distance of the contact centre.

But how secure is a group of customer service advisors working from home? With personal customer data flying around from customers to the brand to the home of the advisor, isn’t there an increased risk that data could be lost or stolen? Not if you plan your work at home solution wisely with security as a key component of the strategy.

The aim is to ensure that your remote advisor is handling data from customers in a secure way that matches (at the very minimum) the security offered within the contact centre environment. To achieve this, there are a few key steps that can be taken:

  1. PCI compliance: follow the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. This is a framework of best-practice policies that should be followed by any company accepting card payments and provides a good baseline to work from when planning an advisor security strategy.
  2. Encrypt those calls: even commonly used internet calling services such as WhatsApp and Skype offer full encryption from end to end. Ensure that you are doing that same and ensuring that voice calls are encrypted between your advisor and the contact centre - and ultimately between the contact centre and customer.
  3. Lockdown the desktop: your remote advisor can use a regular Windows PC to access their advisor desktop, but it must be on a locked-down profile so the only functionality they have available is what they need to perform their job. No file saving, copying, or printing functions should be possible.
  4. Don’t rely on passwords: don’t allow advisors to access your system remotely with just a username and password. Either use biometric authentication, such as fingerprints, or go for a two-stage password system where the contact centre sends one-time password to the advisor when they need to login.
  5. Don’t expose personal financial information: use automation for payment so advisors never even need to hear or know about customer card details - the call can be switched to a computer when card details need to be added and switched back to the human advisor after. Just don’t expose the advisor to any financial data and there is nothing that can possibly be lost or stolen.

These are five basic tips for creating a safe and secure work at home environment, but what would you recommend as another essential step? Leave a comment here or get in touch directly via LinkedIn.


Four advantages of a work at home cx strategy

Work at home strategies are going mainstream, especially in areas such as customer service where there are many advantages to having a diverse pool of Advisors working remotely. But how common is it now to work from home and is secure?

Arguably the USA has led the move to home working so it’s worth looking at some of the statistics from there. It seems surprising, but now almost half of all American workers work from home, according to data from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. The NJIT research indicates that many companies, such as IBM, SAP, and Amazon, are encouraging home working in addition to many customer service organisations. With 45% of all American employees now based at home, it’s surprising that the commute to an office is still considered the most ‘normal’ type of job.

There are several distinct advantages of a work at home strategy when looking specifically at building a customer service team. For instance:

  • You can hire the best people: not everyone lives within commuting distance of your contact centre. Allowing a work at home option ensures you can hire great people who really fit the profile of the brand you are servicing without restricting your options to those who live nearby or are prepared to relocate.
  • Security is high: it’s far easier to create point to point encryption with a locked down desktop so your home workers are serving customers in an environment that is every bit as secure as your contact centre.
  • Training is easy: modern video conferencing systems are free to use and easy to deploy. They allow remote workers to be included in meetings and training sessions without needing to visit the contact centre so remote training is much easier than ever before.
  • Scale up fast: when building a team quickly you don’t need to worry about office space at the contact centre, you can hire as quickly as you can find good people and let them work remotely.

Work at home doesn’t have to be an exclusive strategy. You can have a team based at a contact centre with a pool of people available to work from home, but it is also possible to have a completely remote team supervised from a contact centre. The improvements to training and security systems in the past couple of years have really changed the game and made work at home a far more viable option. Having access to a wide pool of talent who do not need to commute to the contact centre is an enormous strategic advantage and cannot be ignored by anyone who needs to manage the great customer experience for a brand.

What do you think of work at home as a customer service strategy? Leave a comment here or get in touch directly via LinkedIn.


Webhelp Receives Six Nominations in the South African BPO & Contact Centre Awards

Leading global customer experience and business process outsourcing company, Webhelp, is celebrating after being named a finalist in six categories at this year’s South African BPO & Contact Centre Industry Awards.

These awards, run by the CCMG and BPeSA, aim to identify talent, top performance and best practice within the contact centre industry in South Africa at both an individual and team level.

The winners will be announced at a gala dinner in Johannesburg’s Montecasino Ballroom on Aug 26 at an event that will publicly celebrate success in the industry while also reinforcing the value and contribution the contact centre industry makes to South Africa’s economy.

Craig Gibson, chief commercial officer of Webhelp UK, SA and India, said: “Webhelp was successful in winning three awards at this event last year and I am delighted that we have been named as a finalist in even more categories this year! This shows that as our business grows, and the number of leading international clients we handle in South Africa increases, so too does our commitment to quality and our ability to deliver consistently excellent customer experiences.

“Congratulations to all of the team who have worked so hard to make these nominations a reality. I am extremely proud of our South African operations and I am delighted that we are being recognised in this way. I look forward to the awards next month when I am confident Webhelp will be able to add another couple of gongs to our trophy cabinet!”

Webhelp’s nominations this year are as follows:

  • Best Outsourced Contact Centre (large 250-999) – Webhelp/Shop Direct Newspaper House
  • Best Shared Services – Webhelp People Services
  • Best Analyst – Zaheer Mullajee
  • Best Contact Centre Customer Service Professional – Bronwyn Frick
  • Best Contact Centre Support Professional, Workforce Planning – Lemeraan Duncan
  • Best Contact Centre Trainer Professional – Giovanni Arendse

In 2016 Webhelp won the following awards:

  • Best Contact Centre Operational Manager – Katja Alves
  • Best Contact Centre Sales Professional – Shu-aib Samsodien
  • Best Contact Centre Support Professional, Workforce Planning –Zahir Harris

ENDS

 

 


Prime Wardrobe may change how we all buy clothes

It feels like ancient history now, but back long ago (the nineties) there was an online fashion retailer called Boo.com. Boo crashed and burned in one of the most spectacular disasters of the original dot com boom – spending hundreds of millions of dollars in 18 months trying to create the ideal online shopping experience.

Boo was never going to work. They were too far ahead of the way that customers experience in fashion retail. Nobody had a smart phone, then, nobody could shop using a mobile device, and very few people had broadband. Most of us were still using modems, so imagine trying to download a rotating 3D image of a shoe?

You can read the Boo story in a very interesting book called Boo Hoo, but the reason I’m thinking back to this customer experience disaster is that Amazon is about to tear up the rulebook on how people buy clothes.

Their new service Amazon Prime Wardrobe allows customers to order any clothes, keep them for a week to try them on, and then return any items they don’t want completely free. Regular retailers already struggling to implement complex omni-channel systems will be horrified to hear that Amazon is about to change the rules of retail once again.

Now, I assume that by ‘trying on’ Amazon assumes that the customer will literally just try the clothes, look in a mirror, and send that back if not required, but is it just me who thinks that it could also be possible to order an entirely new wardrobe for a wedding which can all be returned after the party is over?

Seriously though, this initiative could redefine clothes shopping. Busy people find it difficult to spend time shopping in various stores, so Amazon can bring everything together and make it easy to order different sizes to see which fits best.

I think the supply chain logistics will be formidable. Handling parcels do have a real cost even if the customer is not being openly charged for delivery. It’s no surprise that many analysts believe that Amazon will drop parcel companies like UPS and will just create their own parcel delivery company. It would tie the supply chain more tightly to the company, but could that really be ramped up quickly enough on a global basis?

It’s also interesting to see how these innovations are also reinforcing the Prime loyalty system. When Prime was originally launched it was just an unlimited package fee – you pay a fixed price per month to get free delivery from Amazon. Now it’s possibly the most successful customer loyalty scheme anywhere in the world and with new services being applied only to Prime customers, it is only likely to grow further.

With services like Prime Wardrobe those old days of Boo.com feel very long ago indeed. What do you think about the ideas Amazon is presenting for fashion retail and how it changes the customer experience? Leave a comment here or get in touch directly via LinkedIn.


Webhelp Daredevil Dives for Charity

A brave Kilmarnock woman has skydived her way to an impressive £3,612 for local charity Ayrshire Hospice.

A business trainer at Webhelp in Kilmarnock, Kirsten Stewart, was keen to raise money for the local hospice after seeing first-hand the good work they do.

Kirsten said: “I chose to do a Skydive as this is something that I believe to be a bit out of the ordinary and felt it would help me in my aim was to raise as much money for the charity as possible,  as well as raising awareness of the amazing work they do.

“The build up for the jump was so exciting I was hyper for weeks, but when the door of the plane opened my heart sank. By this point I was 10,000ft in the air and there was no going back. We were falling at about 120mph and when we finally landed back on safe ground I felt so overwhelmed that I had actually done it and for a charity close to my heart.”

Kirsten Tandem

Anton Manley, chief operating officer at Webhelp UK, said: “Congratulations to Kirsten for such an impressive effort. She has raised a huge amount of money for a very worthy cause and we are extremely proud of her. At Webhelp we are very conscious of the role we play in the communities in which we are based and it makes me very proud when I hear stories of our people going out of their way to give back to those communities.”

The event took place on May 27, 2017, at Errol airfield in Perthshire and meant an early start and an anxious wait to see if the weather would be kind enough to let the jump go ahead. Kirsten then topped off the day of fundraising with an evening of raffles, auctions and games at Townholm Bowling Club.